All posts by Andrej Bauer

A Brown-Palsberg self-interpreter for Gödel’s System T

In a paper accepted at POPL 2016 Matt Brown and Jens Palsberg constructed a self-interpreter for System $F_\omega$, a strongly normalizing typed $\lambda$-calculus. This came as a bit of a surprise as it is “common knowledge” that total programming languages do not have self-interpreters.

Thinking about what they did I realized that their conditions allow a self-interpreter for practically any total language expressive enough to encode numbers and pairs. In the PDF note accompanying this post I give such a self-interpreter for Gödel’s System T, the weakest such calculus. It is clear from the construction that I abused the definition given by Brown and Palsberg. Their self-interpreter has good structural properties which mine obviously lacks. So what we really need is a better definition of self-interpreters, one that captures the desired structural properties. Frank Pfenning and Peter Lee called such properties reflexivity, but only at an informal level. Can someone suggest a good definition?

Note: self-interpreter-for-T.pdf